Hiking Salem’s Wilderness: State Street Trail

This essay is part of an occasional series highlighting Phil Decker’s journeys hiking through what he calls the Salem National Forest. Follow all of his adventures on his blog.

As a college student in Maryland, I used to backpack in Shenandoah National Forest. I always wanted to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, from Florida to Maine, but I never got to check that off my bucket list.

Yet I have no regrets, especially since I recently discovered the State Street Trail in the Salem National Forest. It’s much more diverse. It’s not as long. Plus, I’m back home each evening, sleeping in my own bed.

While photographing other urban trails in the Salem National Forest, I’ve been liberal with adding tongue-in-cheek commentary. A sense of humor comes in handy while searching for beauty in alternative landscapes along suburban and commercial strips such as Lancaster Drive and River Road.

But with the State Street Trail, I’ve met my match. It’s an impressive trail that rolls through habitats and cultures, from its easternmost source in the countryside at the junction of a hazelnut orchard and a Christmas tree farm, to its mouth at the Salem Riverfront Carousel.

The entire trail consists of a dozen miles of pristine landscape, never before photographed from start to finish. This photo essay focuses on the State Street Trail’s rural roots, east of Cordon Road.

Join me for a hike in our own backyard.


The trail begins where State Street and Cascade Highway collide, and where super fast Internet has just arrived.

01, photo by Phil Decker


Sheep jog single file through meadows.

02, photo by Phil Decker


Young hazelnut trees grow under the watch of omnipotent Oregon Agriculture: “Everywhere. Every Day.”

03a photo by Phil Decker


Petite wild daisies adorn the edge of the trail.

04a photo by Phil Decker


Beloved ancestors and many veterans rest in Mt. Hope Pioneer Cemetery.

05a photo by Phil Decker


Forest meets farmland.

06, photo by Phil Decker


Delivery boxes wait patiently for good ol’ fashioned print.

07, photo by Phil Decker


Gates divide neighbors’ grass crops. Aaaaaaachooooo!

08a photo by Phil Decker


Shed doors remain unlocked.

09, photo by Phil Decker


A superhero (alias Kaiden Early, age 5) trains on his trail-side trampoline.

10a photo by Phil Decker


Horses swat flies and moon hikers.

11, photo by Phil Decker


Nimble deer miraculously dodge multiple bullets.

12a photo by Phil Decker


Views of the valley stretch far and wide.

13, photo by Phil Decker


Foxgloves soak up sunlight.

14a photo by Phil Decker


Power surges through the fields.

15, photo by Phil Decker


The sun sets on a curve of the State Street Trail.

16, photo by Phil Decker


This summer, I will continue along the State Street Trail — crossing the urban growth boundary (legally), wandering through suburbs and inching my way toward inner-city Salem. Notable attractions along the way will include Big Jim’s Wrecking and Towing, Capitol Fútbol Club, The Pink Elephant, Oregon National Guard, the Oregon State Penitentiary, and the back side of the Gold Man. Follow along with me on my blog, “Hiking Salem National Forest.”

Phil Decker, a documentary photographer who studied at the International Center of Photography in New York, is facilitator of the Salem Photo League and an elementary school principal. See his other photo essays at www.phildeckerphotos.com.